Companies: make sure your CSR activities are up to par

Weh Yeoh, CEO and Co-Founder, Umbo

Organizations looking to invest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) – and the positive corporate culture and image it promotes – should look for charities that are planning their own shutdowns, according to one of the Pro winners. Bono Australia’s Impact 25 of this year.

Fundraiser founder Day without Speech believes it just makes sense for charities to have an expiration date. And that’s a trend he sees being high as corporate goodwill is increasingly driven by younger workers with more critical and nuanced thinking.

Ideally, companies want to support a charity that can quantify and articulate when their work is done, Yeoh said. “A more nuanced donor, and someone who understands the potential pitfalls of charities, will worry when their support is no longer needed – and rightly so. A lot of charity work, in my opinion, is about the perpetuation of the charity and almost a perpetuation of the problem that the charity seeks to solve, ”Yeoh said. Marketing director.

“A successful charity is one that can say ‘we think success is when we are no longer needed.’ These types of charities are rare.

“Historically, people have participated in fundraising programs because they are seen as a ‘good cause’. But when people say that, it gives charities a free pass to do almost anything because it lessens the need for critical thinking. ”

Have an exit strategy

In contrast, Yeoh claimed that the current perception of charities, especially among the younger generations, is based on effective charitable work and a better understanding of where the money goes and the methodologies used.
Yeoh was asked where the money goes by young elementary school students he met at Day without Speech fundraisers in Australia, Singapore and Cambodia. He has also led this fundraiser for companies such as Salesforce, the NSW Treasury Young Professionals Network and the accounting firm McGrathNichol.

Originally a physiotherapist working with disabled children, Yeoh founded the Organization for Improving Communication in Cambodia (OIC Cambodia) eight years ago. At the time, speech therapy was non-existent despite the fact that 500,000 Cambodians needed this basic health service. As part of an exit strategy for OIC Cambodia, Yeoh has expected local people to lead him. After four years, he handed over the management to the inhabitants.

In 2017, Yeoh returned home to Australia and founded OIC Australia, which organizes Day Without Speech here to raise funds for OIC Cambodia. He quickly discovered that many rural Australians were also facing similar issues and were waiting 18 months for speech and occupational therapy services. With co-founders Francesca Pinzone and Ed Johnson, Yeoh created Umbo, a social enterprise that helps families in rural and remote areas of Australia with online speech-language and professional therapies that cut wait times from 18 months to a week. .

Participating organizations told Yeoh that they liked Day without Speech because it is beneficial for a charity to have an end point. Companies participating in OIC Australia are invited to be silent for a day – or a few hours – to support the ambition of the association.

The funds raised by Day without Speech are also helping to create a profession of speech therapist in Cambodia rather than helping children individually. Training is done through university courses and local government organizations such as pediatric hospitals so that they can treat children and reduce reliance on foreign aid.

OIC Cambodia’s ultimate goal is to leave the country by 2030 when there will be 100 Cambodian speech therapists integrated into the public sector. “So all OIC Cambodia does is create sustainable local therapy in Cambodia beyond OIC time there,” Yeoh said.

“Assuming everything goes according to plan, by 2030 we will no longer need companies to support us, and this is something of great interest to companies looking for the right CSR agenda. ”

Alignment with all benefits

When it comes to maximizing the benefits of CSR programs, Yeoh said any fundraising activity should reap benefits for everyone involved. This is possible when the activities, experiences and objectives of the program are well aligned.

“A good program should benefit not only the people for whom the donation is intended, but all stakeholders involved,” he said.

For example, Day without Speech invites people to stop talking for an hour or as long as they can. Yeoh said kids can last longer than an hour, with passionate teens staying quiet for a day or two, but most adults can’t go beyond an hour. The day benefits participants as they experience the challenges and frustrations faced by those who are ultimately helped, he said. Finally, it benefits Cambodian children who benefit from trained speech therapists.

Yet the benefits go beyond simple understanding, funds raised, and much needed speech therapy.

“When Day without Speech is organized, it raises awareness of communication difficulties more widely and creates a society more conducive to the inclusion of people with different needs – be it communication or different types of abilities, disabilities. or other differences, ”Yeoh said.

“What is remarkable for me is to see children so open to difference. When I was in school we were less aware of the differences – of the diversity across the spectrum. Now [in the current school environment] it becomes the responsibility of everyone else in this class to include children with disabilities.

Emphasize the positive

Another hallmark of a good CSR program for Yeoh is ensuring that the fundraising focuses on society in general, rather than on individuals in particular, emphasizing its positivism.

According to Yeoh, one of the main goals of Day without Speech was to avoid being a fundraiser that only addressed the negative aspects of a disability – a common pitfall among many fundraising activities, according to Yeoh. .

“We wanted people to experience the challenges of not being able to speak, but also to understand some of the other things that they can use to communicate and what, as a society, we can do to accommodate the people who are. have difficulty communicating, ”he said.

“When you see something that aligns all of these touchpoints – money goes to a cause that matches people’s experience, and also to an activity that doesn’t just talk about deficits but also the positives and the upsides. strengths that people experience this difficulty might have – then all of these experiences and elements align very well. Then you have a good, comprehensive CSR program.

Involve your team

A third imperative is to ensure that staff at least have a say, if not run the program themselves, Yeoh said. Suggesting charities that have clear, defined goals and that can describe success, preferably within a time frame, should encourage the team and especially the younger members to join us. .

“Statistically, we know that young people are more involved in the social impact of work than in the financial benefits – so companies have the opportunity to get it right,” Yeoh said.

Yeoh also advised giving staff a choice from some of the lesser-known charities that usually don’t get support. His view is that these more attractive “outsiders” are likely to win the hearts and wider participation of staff, as their efforts could have a greater impact.

Yeoh’s newest social enterprise, Umbo, is working to do just that by filling a gap in rural Australia for speech and occupational therapy. Working mainly in eastern New South Wales, around Darwin and in Tasmania, Umbo has already helped more than 200 families during his three and a half years.

Umbo’s goal is to affect the system of what he sees as rural-urban inequality beyond the organization itself. Yeoh and his partners are still working on the formula for this – with time on their side.

“As a company with a specific purpose, the success [for Umbo] it’s when we create structural change within a system, ”he added.

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